National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce


Event Overview 

Hurricane Gustav was a category 2 hurricane of subtropical origin. The cyclone passed near the Outer Banks of North Carolina as a tropical storm, then passed over the eastern end of Nova Scotia and western Newfoundland (Figure 1) as a category 1 hurricane. It was the seventh named storm and first hurricane of the season. Initially a subtropical depression north of the Bahamas, Gustav passed slightly to the east of the Outer Banks of North Carolina before moving northeastward and making two landfalls in Canada as a Category 1 hurricane. The storm was responsible for one death and $100,000 in damage, mostly in North Carolina.

Gustav (Figure 2) spent the early part of its existence as a subtropical storm, and was the first such storm to be named from the current lists by the National Hurricane Center. Previously, subtropical storms were not given names. The cyclone was also the latest-forming first hurricane of the season since 1941.

Figure 1. Track of Gustav (September 8-12, 2002)

Figure 2. Satellite Image of Gustav approaching the Outer Banks, September 10, 2002.

Evolution and Impacts 

An area of showers developed between the Bahamas and Bermuda on September 6, in association with a developing upper-level trough and a weak surface trough. This convection increased in both coverage and intensity and the surface trough became better defined. A broad surface low formed in the system late on September 7. By early on September 8, the cyclone had developed sufficient organized convection to qualify as a subtropical depression about 440 nautical miles south-southeast of Cape Hatteras. Later that day, an Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft investigated the cyclone and found it had become Subtropical Storm Gustav.

Gustav moved erratically west-northwestward on September 9 as it slowly strengthened. Gustav turned north early on September 10 as convection became better organized near the center. Based on this and the development of a band of strong winds closer to the center, the cyclone transformed into a tropical storm. Maximum sustained winds reached 63 mph while the center passed between Cape Hatteras and Diamond Shoals, North Carolina late in the afternoon on September 10, as the center of circulation moved just offshore of the Outer Banks.

Gustav turned northeastward when it reached the Hatteras area, then accelerated northeastward on September 11. The tropical cyclone intensified as it gradually began to merge with a non-tropical low and Gustav became the 2002 season's first hurricane just before 8 AM EDT on September 11 and reached a maximum intensity of 98 mph later that day.  Gustav made landfall over the southern part of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia near early on September 12 as a Category 2 hurricane. Satellite, surface, and radar data indicated the cyclone was becoming extratropical as it made a second landfall over southwestern Newfoundland and Gustav lost all tropical characteristics late on September 11 while decelerating across Newfoundland. The remnant extratropical low moved into the Labrador Sea, where it turned northwestward late on September 13 and dissipated on September 15.

Although Gustav passed just to the east of Cape Hatteras, areas of North Carolina as well as southeastern Virginia received heavy rain and tropical storm-force winds. Parts of the Outer Banks received 2 to 5 inches of rain from Gustav (Figure 3). In addition, winds of up to 50 mph occurred in the Outer Banks, and the Coast Guard station at Cape Hatteras recorded a wind gust of 78 mph. Storm surge flooding of 5 to 6 feet above normal tide levels occurred along the inland side of the Outer Banks in Hyde and Dare counties. This occurred during a period of strong northwesterly winds following the passage of the center of Gustav. Storm tides of 3-4 feet above normal were reported in Cedar Island and along the Neuse River. Tides were 1-2 feet above normal elsewhere along the coast of North Carolina. In addition, a weak waterspout touched down on Silver Lake near Ocracoke and moved onshore, but only minor roof damage was reported in association with the waterspout. In addition, sporadic power outages were also reported. One person was killed after suffering injuries in high surf caused by the cyclone, and 40 other people had to be rescued from the rip currents and storm surge associated with the storm. Total damage in eastern North Carolina was around $100,000.


Figure 3. Rainfall Totals from Gustav, September 8 to 12, 2002.





National Hurricane Center




Damage Picture from the Outer Banks
Photo courtesy of: VASTORMPHOTOS.COM


Flooding on the Outer Banks ahead of Gustav, September 10, 2002

Case Study Team:
Chris Collins